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Ashland Theater Review: Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

Photo by Jenny Graham

In “Mojada, A Medea in Los Angeles,” playwright Luis Alfaro manages an impressive feat, melding a Greek tragedy with a heartbreaking story of Mexican immigrants.

Now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with sensitive direction by Juliette Carrillo, this play follows the life of Medea, a young indigenous woman from Michoacán now residing in Los Angeles with her beloved Jason, pronounced Ha-sohn, their son Acan, and Tita, an old family friend. All are mojados, wetbacks, illegal.

Jason works in construction, Medea does piecework sewing, and Tita cooks and holds things together. Little Acan is rapidly becoming an American.

Jason’s employer Armida, a Mexican businesswoman with frosted hair and stiletto heels, is now a legal resident. She soon wishes to marry smart, sexy Jason and adopt Acan. Medea, who has learned potions from Tita, will never let this happen.

We know disaster is imminent. The characters have suffered so many traumas in coming to the U.S. and expect even more as they pursue the American dream. This tale will not end well.

But before that bitter ending, the play is filled with humor and a rich sense of heritage. The actors are perfectly cast. Sabina Zuniga Varela as Medea embodies a magical, timeless spirit.

Lakin Valdez as Jason struggles between love and ambition. Tita, as played by the single-named VIVIS, maintains a cutting sense of humor despite a lifetime of troubles.

Vilma Silva’s Armida is like an evil mother-in-law in a telenovela. JJ Jimenez is endearing as Acan.

Christopher Acebo’s whimsical set, featuring a stucco shack perched on a hillside and decorated with Christmas lights, is the perfect backdrop for Alfaro’s unique tale.

Credit Photo by Jenny Graham
Medea (Sabina Zuniga Varela) and Jason (Lakin Valdez)

Dorothy Velasco has reviewed productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for KLCC since 1985.